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    Maldives president escapes boat blast unhurt

    An explosion ripped through a speed boat carrying Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Monday injuring his wife and two others but leaving him unhurt, though authorities ruled out the possibility of an assassination attempt.

    A mechanical issue was the probable cause but is yet to be confirmed by foreign investigators who have begun arriving in the Maldives, a minister told reporters in Colombo, the capital of neighbouring Sri Lanka.

    Mohamed Hussain Shareef, Minister at the President’s Office, said the explosion blew off a cabin door, but there was no fire and no damage to the hull.

    “We are looking at an accident rather than sabotage,” Shareef said, adding that the authorities were also checking the maintenance records of the presidential vessel which had been idling while Yameen was visiting Saudi Arabia on a hajj pilgrimage.

    He discounted any connection between the explosion and political unrest in the archipelago where Yameen’s predecessor Mohamed Nasheed had been jailed for 13 years following a controversial trial in March.

    He said the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims lacked forensic capabilities, but experts from Saudi Arabia and the United States had already arrived in the capital island Male to assist and more were to join from Australia and India.

    “We have no reason to believe that anyone would want to assassinate the president,” Shareef said.

    “Our opposition is vocal but not violent to carry out something like this.”

    Shareef said the authorities were also concerned about another fire aboard a passenger craft on Saturday and that measures would be taken to tighten safety requirements for sea bound vessels in a country that depends on upmarket tourism.

    – First lady taken to hospital –

    Three people were hurt in the incident, Shareef said, including Yameen’s wife Fathimath Ibrahim, who may require two to three weeks of rest to make a full recovery.

    “The president was unhurt and he escorted the first lady to hospital where she is under observation following a minor injury,” he said.

    Reporters had gathered at the presidential jetty to receive Yameen, who had landed a few minutes earlier at the nearby Hulhule airport after returning from Saudi Arabia.

    State television footage showed the president being escorted off the boat and onto a police launch, while witnesses said they saw an ambulance rush to the jetty and authorities immediately cordoned off the area.

    The Maldives is a popular upmarket tourist destination, but its image has suffered in recent years due to prolonged political unrest.

    The country has come in for tough international criticism over the jailing of Nasheed after a rushed trial that the UN said was seriously flawed.

    The charge against Nasheed relates to the ordering of the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge when he was still president in 2012.

    His 13-year jail sentence was commuted to house arrest in July, but last month police took him back to prison in a surprise move that drew fresh criticism.

    Nasheed’s international lawyer Amal Clooney has warned she will press for sanctions against the Maldives unless he is released.

    That comment triggered a row with another high-profile London lawyer Cherie Booth, who is representing the government, and who said the sanctions call was “unjustified” and a threat to the economic stability of the honeymoon islands.

    Courtesy – AFP,The West Australia

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